Falcons expect Desmond Ridder to take the next step; what would that be?

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After several months of speculation, the Falcons have named the team’s starting quarterback. Desmond Ridder will be under center in Week 1, despite the entire national media pushing a narrative surrounding Lamar Jackson.

The Falcons are turning to a third-round pick with four games under his belt, but Ridder showed poise and growth in each outing, improving week after week. The team is high on him, and Arthur Smith told D. Orlando Ledbetter they expect Ridder to take the next step.

So, what is the next step for Desmond Ridder?

23-year-old Ridder threw for 708 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions on 73-of-115 passing (63.5%), good for a 6.2 A/Y and 6.5 AY/Y. He did fumble it three times but also finished with an even 2-2 record. It is a tiny sample size, so expectations should be tempered. There’s very little chance Ridder would’ve maintained that pace of 17 games — 63.5% passing, 3,009 yards and nine touchdowns.

There are some who expect a massive sophomore campaign. Ridder “is set up for success,” Jordan Palmer said. “I think that’s one of the best staffs in the league. He’s in a position to have a big second year just like I said 12 months ago about Trevor Lawrence.” Here are the former No. 1 overall’s two seasons:

  • 2021 stats: 59.% passing, 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions
  • 2022 stats: 66.3% passing, 4,113 yards, 25 touchdowns, 8 interceptions. 

That is one of the most impressive sophomore leaps for a quarterback in recent memory. However, Lawrence has been a generational talent ever since he was recruited by Clemson. It would be unusual for a third-round pick like Desmond Ridder to experience the same exponential leap, but not impossible.

I wouldn’t expect a Pro Bowl-caliber season from Ridder, but there is reason to be optimistic. Ridder’s intangibles are off the charts; it’s all Arthur Blank, Terry Fontenot, and Arthur Smith talk about. To me, that sets a very high floor for his career.

He is dedicated to his craft and possesses the leadership qualities needed to lead a locker room filled with alphas. I don’t think the Falcons will be measuring Desmond Ridder’s progress how the rest of us will be. Most fans will look at the box score, while the staff will value the process over the production.

Development in the NFL is never linear, and sometimes, it’s exponential, like we saw with Trevor Lawrence in 2023. Falcons fans should be excited about the way the team talks about Ridder.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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